UCWGA-KSU Honors John Lewis and C.T. Vivian

"Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble." - John Lewis

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian, two icons of the racial justice movement, died in Atlanta on June 17, 2020. They have been laid to rest amid the storm of rising COVID-19 case numbers and deaths; of record-breaking protests against police murders of Black people; of federal Homeland Security agents descending on cities such as Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington, to whisk away antiracist protesters in unmarked vans; and of rising concerns about voter disenfranchisement for the fall election.

Lewis and Vivian both participated in sit-ins as young people (Vivian in the 1940s, Lewis as a college student in the early 1960s), helping bring a tactic drawn from the labor movement into the civil rights movement. Both were also inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King: Lewis as a boy listening to King speak on the radio and Vivian at a packed church in Nashville, Tennessee.

In Walking with the Wind, Lewis speaks of finding his calling while studying nonviolent civil disobedience on Tuesday evenings at the Clark Memorial United Methodist Church as a student of Rev. Jim Lawson. In Nashville he met and was guided by Vivian (76). The two not only participated in sit-ins to desegregate lunch counters, they were also freedom riders, and played important roles in Selma during the struggle for voting rights. Neither backed down in confronting injustice, despite being beaten, jailed, and threatened with death.

Members of the United Campus Workers of Kennesaw State University honor the courageous spirit and commitment of Lewis and Vivian.  We see ourselves working to build on their vision of racial justice and radical democracy, in which everyone has a voice. We remind our members that when Dr. King was killed in Memphis, he was engaged in supporting a strike of sanitation workers.  Labor and racial justice activists have brought about significant change for American workers through organizing and direct action, and we build on that legacy.

It is in this spirit that we join together to ensure that all workers at Kennesaw State University have a voice concerning labor conditions. KSU is our university, our workplace, and workers—no matter their job position, race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information—have the right to band together to ensure that the university honors the dignity of their labor and protects the safety of their lives and the lives of the students. Doing so is a crucial part of our struggle to respond with decency, dignity, and a sense of unity to the unprecedented challenges that COVID-19 and a lack of transparency in decision-making have brought to our campus.

John Lewis liked to call his work as a nonviolent protester confronting injustice as getting up to “good trouble.”  We too are up to good trouble.  Join us.

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